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Guts and grace.

With boy scout awareness, I thought I was prepared enough for whatever fate might deal me. Alas, about the only reasonable hedge one can build against fate is financial. Against some of life's surprises, of which there are not a few, such portfolios don't work at all-one is left to rely on God's grace.

In seniorhood, mercifully, one is fortified somehow by one's breadth of hindsight. On the other hand, one is most physically vulnerable, caught by life's ambushes at such time of life. In my case, the mental and physical toll is absorbed mostly by the gut; it's the most candid part of me-never fails to give me away.

Cousin Ninit is especially quick to diagnose my case as stress-related. She, with cousin Sylvia, has stood by me on some occasions of very public fainting due to stomach cramps. I'm so unlike my mother, who they say seemed to look lovelier and remain good company even under stress. Marunong magdala, they say.

I'm myself spared her kind of pain, which, for all her beauty, came from marital woes. At any rate, I do not hold up comparably, not even remotely, especially when the problem involves people I'd take a bullet for, as in the case of my youngest granddaughter, now 8, the subject of a custody case with no enduring solution in sight until perhaps she reaches the age of free choice. Thankfully, a modus vivendi has been reached between her two families, giving my tummy a much-needed rest.

I've come to realize it's time to let go where a situation is someone else's immediate concern-say, a parent's for his or her child. My role is to trust, wish for the best, and make myself available only when asked. Letting go should be easy when the alternative is simply unacceptable-diarrhea, acid reflux, growing older, faster.

Links to the brain

Deeper insights and appreciation of life on this matter have become serendipitously available at Barnes and Noble on a recent trip. I bought Fear of Dying for its author, Erica Jong (Fear of Flying). The other book, which I'll talk more about here, I bought for its title, Gut, and a further promise on its cover: The Inside Story of Our Body's Most Underrated Organ.

The author, Guilia Enders, is a young medical doctor, whose own experience with skin disease led her to look further under, into her gut, and to experiment with foods and diets, and indeed got her own condition under control. She became fascinated that there was an entire branch of medical research investigating the links between the gut and the brain.

Enders shows that some moods, even depression, could, as recent studies have revealed, very likely originate from an imbalance in our gut and should not be treated solely, if at all, with mood-changing drugs prescribed by psychologists or psychiatrists. The book, in fact, inspires us to give due respect to the gut for being the key to holistic health.

Only last week I was rushed to the hospital for symptoms that felt like a heart attack. And because a recent ECG had shown a block in my left ventricle, it seemed the right thing to fear. It turned out to be acid reflux, which, doctors themselves say, does a pretty good imitation of a heart attack.

It was the 43-year-old case in the next cubicle who was actually having the real one, and had to be taken to Intensive Care. I myself, by God's grace, was sent home with Maalox for pain and a Prev-acid tablet to be taken an hour before breakfast for two weeks. I came off with a light sentence: No coffee, tea, chocolate or spicy food until my digestive juices come to their senses and stop rushing up my esophagus, where they have no business.

Ms Enders gives me hope: When the body has returned to a healthy equilibrium, even a sensitive gut can sort itself out. Then there is no need to impose a lifelong ban on certain products, but simply to make sure you consume them in quantities your system can easily cope with.

The key to good health is to know and respect one's body, she advises. Each gut is unique and individual. While antacids provide temporary relief for acid reflux, which could be stress-related, it's not meant as a long-term solution.

My gut feel tells me a healthier diet and more exercise are themselves not enough; I would require a liberating change in focus, a firm resolve to keep out of any territory in which I don't belong-exactly like acid off the esophagus. And within the tranquil and blissful boundaries I share with my husband, I shall count my blessings.
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Publication:Philippines Daily Inquirer (Makati City, Philippines)
Date:Nov 22, 2015
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